While there are many good sushi places in Tokyo, Sushi Yuu (寿司勇) in Nishi Azabu is the one where everything is absolutely perfect: the quality and freshness of the fish, the way of serving and celebrating every single piece of sushi and the overall atmosphere in this small and unsophisticated restaurant.
I came to Japan without being a great fish lover, and that is still an understatement. I would avoid anything that looked or sounded like fish, particularly raw fish. Obviously that is kind of annoying when you live in Japan. Although there are lots of other choices, I was missing a great part of the Japanese culture and lifestyle. So I just needed to find someone I could trust and who would be patient enough to open up the sushi world for me, step by step.
This person should be a young guy called Daisuke Shimazaki. His restaurant is located in a typical Japanese-style 2-story home in a very local residential street in the center of Tokyo, right between Nogizaka and Roppongi, opposite the embassy of Ghana.
I found myself at the counter, which seats about 10 people, facing the beautiful and impeccably clean wooden working surface and Daisuke's friendly face. He was kind of prepared to get a "difficult" customer that night, so he started talking to me to learn a little bit more about my taste buds. He then created a beginner menu for me, using some cooked shrimp at first and moving on to squid and some lean tuna. I don’t know what exactly it was, the quality of the food itself, the atmosphere, or the fact that I was able to watch every single step of the sushi preparation, skillful and esthetic, one piece at a time, but I started to like it, and I finally understood why people would go crazy for sushi. That was the beginning of a great new love.
I have become more adventurous over time, although I still don't like everything. However, no need to be ashamed of saying so; Daisuke is happy as long as you are happy. He goes to the fish market every morning; so in case you are keen on anything in particular, let him know when you make your booking. Otherwise, just let him decide on your course (there is no written menu anyway)—in any case you won't be disappointed.
Do I have a favorite dish? Yes, I have. That's "aburi-sushi", a nigiri sushi piece made with slightly roasted, or better said flambé, fatty tuna. It just melts in your mouth, full of flavor. I never knew that fish could taste like this, honestly. Also, you shouldn't miss the dried and then grilled mackerel, which is actually one of Daisuke's signature dishes; he dries the fish on the rooftop of his restaurant. The result is so incredibly succulent; it makes my mouth water just now.
Apart from the counter there are two private rooms available, but for me the counter is the place to be; I love watching Daisuke cutting and preparing all different sorts of fish. The counter also offers great opportunities to chat with the staff and other guests. The atmosphere is very casual but local at the same time. Sushi Yuu has a number of Japanese regulars, and thanks to Daisuke's English skills, foreigners are always welcome, too.
Until today Sushi Yuu remains one of my favorite restaurants in Tokyo and it is definitely my favorite sushi restaurant of all times. Calculate with just a little more than ¥10,000 per person (without drinks) for the chef's selection. That is more than a fair price for what you get. You won't regret it.